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Soft Teaching Techniques by Robert Scorby

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Social Skills / Games

Through no fault of their own, many children have not had the opportunity to learn adequate social skills. This can be confirmed by watching and listening to children (and adults, for that matter) in social settings and in school. Social skills mean more than just saying please and thank you, although these are often missing, as well. A wonderful, yet simple, way to insert a social skills lesson into the playtime of students is to have them use some procedures that they must follow while playing board games.

Take a turn-taking game like Monopoly. I tell every student to watch all of the players take their turns. When one player finishes a turn, he or she then hands the dice (hand to hand) to the next player saying, "It's your turn," adding the next person's name. The next player takes the dice and says, "Thank you." Each student moves their piece around the board by themself. If a student needs procedural help, the other students, without touching the player's piece, instruct the student how to move the piece. If a student needs physical help, one of the players next to him or her is designated to help move the piece. The helper must be capable of helping (has no trouble physically or cognitively). The reason all of the student participants need to watch the other players take their turn is so player mistakes can be nicely declared. No arguing is allowed. When there is arguing in a group, I time the whole group out for one (and only one) minute so that they can think about calming down.

This is not a punishment. If the arguing continues after two or three time-outs, I often trade all of the students into other different groups. If either the playing students or the students in the new group accepting the new player complain about the trade, I will time-out the aguing group and the traded player. I do my very best not to take a student who continues to argue out of the game, altogether. Sometimes, in order to maintain classroom peace, I do take the student who is oppositional out of the game. When this happens, I let that student do something fun and educational as a substitute. My motivation for removing a student is never as punishment, even though he or she might see it that way. I do not give warnings because this will most certainly be interpreted as a punishment warning. This is why I offer something fun.

Even considering that the roteness and the repetition of this method are not based on how people generally behave in the real world, I have found that the behaviors often cross over to real life. These minimal skills not only teach respectful social skills, they also teach turn-taking skills.

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Robert Scorby Copyright January 9, 2007(all rights reserved)